What, No Hug?: Shipping Giles and Ethan.
written by Gileswench

There's an undeniable spark between Rupert Giles and Ethan Rayne. There's history, too. The sort of history that leaves so many questions begging to be answered that it's a fic writer's wet dream. We have several tantalizing facts, some smoldering moments of intimacy, and an obsession that demands an explanation.

In short, we have the perfect breeding ground for slash.

Despite the fact that Ethan appeared in only four episodes over the course of three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he has become a vital piece of the puzzle that is Giles. This man is the key to Giles' rebellious past. He's also Giles' arch-nemesis. He's Moriarity to Giles' Holmes. He's the part of Giles that Giles doesn't want to acknowledge exists. He's the dirty little secret in all our closets.

And yet, while Giles' primary reaction to Ethan in all four episodes is intense, violent anger, there's also an odd intimacy between them. The screen crackles with energy and potential when these two men face off. They know each other well enough to be able to hit all the vulnerable spots with surgical precision, and neither is afraid to do so. And yet, Ethan can't seem to help himself. He comes back, even knowing that both Giles and Buffy are just waiting to hurt him.

Despite this, Giles does let his guard down and go drinking with Ethan in A New Man. He knows what this man is capable of, what he's done the last three times he's shown up in town, and yet Giles not only goes drinking with him, he gets drunk.

While Ethan is often touted as simply a lovable prankster, it's important to keep in mind that his pranks are all extremely dangerous, and that at least half are meant to be directly harmful - even deadly - to innocent people. He knew the cursed chocolate he manufactured and delivered in Band Candy was being used to distract the populace of Sunnydale from the sacrifice to Lurconis. He had to know that turning hundreds - or even dozens - of people into their Halloween costumes would result in considerable violence and quite probably several deaths. He was more than willing to tattoo Buffy with the Mark of Eyghon and burn his own off with acid to save his own skin. And he certainly had to know that if Giles went missing and couldn't communicate with humans while in Fyarl form that Buffy would go on the warpath and try to kill demon Giles... which is exactly what she did.

So Giles has a lot of reasons to hurt Ethan. Clearly, there are some from long ago, but there are plenty in the here and now of the Buffyverse, as well. What we don't know is why Ethan keeps turning up to make Giles' life difficult.

Ethan seems obsessed with Giles. He has a deep need to force Giles into passionate violence. In Halloween, when Giles is beating Ethan bloody, Ethan takes time out from his groans to laugh. Why? Because he's gotten precisely the reaction he wanted.

As long as Giles is responsible, upstanding and completely on the side of the angels, Ethan needles him. When Giles snaps and Ripper comes out to play, Ethan is delighted no matter how painful the results are for him personally.

Again, I have to ask why.

Luckily enough for those of us who write fic, Joss never quite answered the question. He put the situation before us, then denied us all but the sketchiest information on how things got to this point. That means there are lots of lovely blanks to fill in.

Certainly, one may do so by saying that Ethan felt betrayed when Giles turned his back on their friendship to return to the Watcher's Council after Randall's death. Nobody could possibly be accused of going against canon by writing things this way.

On the other hand, you can't be accused of going against canon by deciding they were lovers, either.

Both men have been shown in canon to be attracted to women. Giles had relationships with Jenny and Olivia, and a one-night stand (thanks to Ethan's cursed chocolate) with Joyce. He also expressed an attraction to the Praying Mantis lady and kissed Anya in one of the more scorching moments of the entire series.

As for Ethan, he did give that waitress his phone number in A New Man. He also made a couple rather suggestive comments to Buffy.

So they both like girls. This is canon.

But canon does indicate the strong possibility that both have at least experimented with homosexual as well as heterosexual relations.

The evidence is clear to see in The Dark Age, the episode where we get what little backstory canon provides for Giles and Ethan.

When Buffy sets the gang to researching for clues about the Mark of Eyghon, Willow discovers something interesting:

"I don't know about Giles, but ancient sects used to induce possession for bacchanals and, and orgies."

Since she also mentions the fact that Eyghon possession can produce '...a euphoric feeling of power', we don't know for certain that orgies were absolutely involved. Still, we're talking about the 1970's. We're talking about a rebellious group of people ranging, most likely, from their late teens to their early twenties. We know Giles was twenty-one. We know what hormones are like in that age range.

Also, this was the height of the sexual revolution. For a brief period, orgies, wife-swapping, and bisexual behavior became actually fashionable in certain pockets of society. Giles' rebellion would have coincided pretty closely with David Bowie's public announcement that he was bisexual (recanted, interestingly enough, in the next decade when AIDS and a rising tide of conservative social theory brought the sexual revolution to a screeching halt). This was the time, after the development of the Pill, but before the rise of new and more virulent STD's when people believed that sex had few, if any consequences.

Put this into the pot with the fact that there were five men and one woman in the Eyghon Gang, stir vigorously, and come to your own conclusions. Mine happens to be that those five men at least tried gay sex on for size.

When Ethan's actions are viewed through the filter of scorned lover, they make a lot more sense to me. Ethan's obsession with Giles mirrors Spike's later obsession with Buffy, in many ways. Both provoke the worst in the object of their obsession simply to provoke any reaction at all. Being hit is better than being ignored. Breaking the facade of self-control is rewarding in and of itself.

Ultimately, though, Ethan and Giles get no resolution of their relationship, for good or ill.

Obviously, it's easiest to write Giles/Ethan shipper fic as pastfic. There's so much to work with and so little specific canon to get in the way that you can make it almost anything you please. Was their relationship always a power struggle? Was it once an idyllic romance? Was it all sex on Giles' side but love on Ethan's? Did Ethan have a crush on Giles that was never fulfilled? Did Giles love Ethan a little too much? Did one blame the other for Randall's death?

There's no end of potential for fic here, whether you want to explore the dark underbelly or wrap yourself and your characters in the comforting blanket of sweetness.

On the other hand, with the unfinished nature of their relationship, it's also easy to come up with a version after the Initiative is destroyed and Ethan is presumably freed from that military prison in Nevada.

This is the perfect breeding ground for hurt/comfort fic. There are dozens of scenarios for something to bring these two men to some sort of understanding, which could lead to romance as easily as it could to the utter destruction of both.

Creamy or chunky? Oh, no, that's peanut butter. But it also describes the possibilities in Giles/Ethan shipping. It can be whatever you want it to be, and nobody can tell you it's wrong. It's two exceptionally attractive men doing naughty things to one another. It's two strong men locked in eternal struggle. It's obsession and sex and the potential for either destruction or redemption.

Go ahead. Make these two hug. See what it leads to. With Ethan and the Ripper, you may not know until you try.

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